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An 'Irreplaceable Dance Treasure'

The Music Division of the Library of Congress has released a new Web collection focusing on the career of dancer-choreographer Katherine Dunham. The presentation is available from the LC Presents: Music, Theater and Dance Web site.

Katherine Dunham in 'Tropical Revue' (1943), at New York's Martin Beck Theatre Portrait of Frank Sinatra, Liederkrantz Hall, New York, N.Y., ca. 1947

This online presentation makes available a selection of photographs from the Library of Congress, the Missouri Historical Society and Southern Illinois University; film and videotape excerpts from Dunham's research and performing career; and selections from the Library's Dunham Legacy Project, which documented her dance technique. In addition, a complete inventory of the collection is included.

The release of the Web collection coincides with the 2004 Visionary Awards and Intergenerational Summit on the State of Black America. Ms. Dunham was an honoree during this Oct. 16 event, and the award presentation was jointly sponsored by the Library's American Folklife Center and the National Visionary Leadership Project.

The Katherine Dunham Collection was assembled at the Library of Congress through the generous support of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. The financial support made possible the purchase of significant portions of Dunham's archives originally housed at the Dunham Centers in East St. Louis, Ill. With the acquisition of 1,694 items in a variety of moving image formats, the Library has become a premiere source of information on Dunham's legacy -- a legacy that encompasses choreographic works, technique and teaching, performance and production, anthropological analysis of the dance and ritual of the African diaspora, global activism and leadership in human rights, and advocacy in the local African American community.

Born in 1909 in Chicago, Katherine Dunham is best known for incorporating African-American, Caribbean, African and South American movement styles and themes into her ballets. As a young dancer and student at the University of Chicago, she chose anthropology as her course of study. The union of dance and anthropology would have a profound impact on her choreographic style throughout her career.

In addition to having a career that has included Broadway performances, feature films, choreography and national and international tours, she established the Katherine Dunham School of Arts and Research. In 1983 she was a recipient of the Kennedy Center Honors, and in 2000 she was named one of "America's Irreplaceable Dance Treasures" by the Dance Heritage Coalition.

LC Presents: Music, Theater and Dance is a new Library of Congress Web site that invites visitors to experience the diversity of American performing arts through the Library's unsurpassed collections of scores, sheet music, audio recordings, films, photographs, maps and other materials. Special presentations on selected topics highlight some of the unique and unusual materials in the Library's collections, including those from jazz legend Gerry Mulligan, Dolly Parton and patriotic melodies. This site is a continually growing resource, and visitors are encouraged to return regularly.

More music and dance collections are available in American Memory, a Web site of more than 9 million multimedia historical items from the Library of Congress and other institutions. To find thousands more of these materials, go to the American Memory Performing Arts; Music page, which contains links to all these fascinating resources. From materials relating to Leonard Bernstein and Aaron Copland to Southern Appalachian Folk Music and Photographs from the Golden Age of Jazz, -- these and more will pique your interest in America's musical heritage.


A. Alfredo, Valenti, photographer. "Katherine Dunham in 'Tropical Revue' (1943), at New York's Martin Beck Theatre." Prints and Photographs Division. Reproduction information: Call No.: NYWTS-BIOG--Dunham, Katherine--Dancer [item] [P&P]

B. William P. Gottlieb, photographer. [Portrait of Frank Sinatra, Liederkrantz Hall, New York, N.Y., ca. 1947]. Prints and Photographs Division. Reproduction information: Reproduction No.: LC-GLB13-0779 DLC (b&w film neg.); Call No.: LC-GLB13- 0779

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